Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Run, Lola, Run d. Tom Tykwer, 1998

This was among the first batch of films I watched when I first started watching - as opposed to just watching - movies. I remember being quite into the pacing and visual invention. I've apparently changed. I still think the pacing is quite good, especially considering how difficult it is to hold the viewer's attention when telling the same story multiple times, but the cinematography and editing - and this may be on account of how things have changed since '98 - make R,L,R feel like one long car commercial. Also, although the film is gussied up with a good deal of philosophizing - care of the quotes and V.O. in the prologue -, there really isn't much to it other than the adrenaline rush. Entertaining, enlivened affair that I wouldn't be opposed to watching again, but only that.


Blogger cuyler ballenger said...

you know i had just seen _Run Lola_ a few weeks ago and i considered not goin yesterday (also bc id just seen _MiVi_ and _No Country_ 2x on the big screen and wanted to keep them fresh in mind) --
but I thought _Lola_, for all its silliness, complimented _Miami_ and _the class_ quite nicely. Last week's article (Thoret, i think) talked about the last "reverse shot" or lack their of in MiVi and how that can be used as a lens for seeing the whole flic. _Lola_ sort of takes this desire for a constantly moving character/ narrative establishment in a new direction yea? i mean there are three movies to be considered where the few connecting threads are circling cameras, running, denial of death and telephones (?). all of those (things) act as means to deny identification and promote attention to movement (like MiVi). shots spinning into (literally) another world (animation), Lola's inhuman capacity to sprint for fucking ever, death avoided by simpy saying "no, this isnt right," and phones that connect the audience to characters entirely anonymous within three stories that are by nature fabricated (all prompted by a soccer ball and repeated [differently] three times.)
anyway -- more if you feel like discussing, i didnt know your email so i blew up your comments. my bad. i just havent ever been able to talk about this movie and im bored at my ma's place. so there.
have fun

21 November, 2007 15:52  
Blogger Michael K. said...

Cuyler, blow up my comments any time, please.

My comments definitely lacked generosity, for sure, and I don't doubt a fantastic academic/theoretical reading can be found here. That said, I feel like watching film from an academic perspective is its own thing; from the other side - the layman's, let's call it - I think this film operates like I said. But let's ignore that for a second; I don't really give a damn about being right, and I think what you're on is way more interesting than my dismissal.

One thing I liked was how, even though the different scenarios were presented as being distinct in some way, they also bled into each other. Take, for instance, Lola's knowledge of the safety on the gun. It's as if Lola operates in a space and time where she, in some (and very important) ways, shares knowledge with the viewer of the film. These are non-characters in a sense; they're essentially film operating as film. That is, whatever knowledge is in the film is ontologically connected to the film itself.

But then: what to make of how biographical the film makes the character's knowledge? The film is definitely attached to concepts such as family, love, etc. Not that it really matters, but I don't think this film is nearly as smart as the readings that can spring from it.

Ok: that doesn't really address much of what you wrote, but I'll ask some questions to maybe help with that:

1) What of the soccer ball? It seems pretty important (especially because there are ten missing minutes in this soccer match; this is an 80 minute movie, remember?)

2) Where do these stories stem from? Are we led to believe that this is more or less the result of a bedroom chat?

3) Thoret talks about a world of flux, where the characters are in search of some type of constant (I might write my paper on the idea of Havana within Miami Vice; it seems to be the only space untouched by flux in the film). Is Lola in search of a constant, or is this different? Like you intimated, it seems very similar, but there seems to be an element of choice in Run, Lola, Run, where the variants of flux stem from Lola's actions. 3b), I guess, how do the variants occur; from where and whence do they come?

Enjoy your holidays, hombre.

21 November, 2007 18:06  
Blogger Ryland Walker Knight said...

While I wait for the chili, I thought I'd throw myself into this. (Enjoying turkey? Hope so. Continue, please.)

First of all, one of the things I think Felipe is trying to do with a class like this is help illustrate that we do not need to set up simple dichotomies of discourse like "academic" vs. "layman" when looking at films, or at essays, or at anything really. His is a deceptively simple goal: to, perhaps, help us to pay better attention. That's all I'm ever trying to do in my writing, in my life. One of the aggravating struggles I've encountered in the blogosphere, as it were, is this resistance to what some readers call "academic" film writing. I do my best to simply provide close, analytic readings, not gussy up an essay with jargon. SO! I hope to launch this comment with as simple, but still attentive, a language as possible.

1) Yes, it's a soccer ball, but the film is not necessarily about soccer but games in general. Life as a game that starts and resets to start again and again, always looking for the same answers to the same questions, as the quotes and the narrator say before we se the title (which is embodied by the cast of the film! people as words, motivated towards a cohesion! that's a really cool thing!).

2) Perhaps the stories stem from themselves, perhaps the stories stem from the bedroom, perhaps the stories stem from Manni as much as Lola since the title is an imperative, not a descriptive, phrase directed at Lola, not issued from Lola.

3) Lola's world of flux is, by design, much different than the one in _Miami Vice_, despite both films' relationship to narrative. That is, the narrative is halted or aborted or spurred in a different direction repeatedly (recursively?) in the film. Maybe we can think of the world of the films, say the chronotopes of the films, as media. Which is to say, the site of time and space interacting in both films seems to serve as a means to explore how time and space define one another in relation to the overall structure of the film. When I say _Miami Vice_ is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen, I'm saying that the "chronotope" of _Miami Vice_ is one of the most beautifully realized film-worlds I've seen. Both films may present us with a "chronotope-as-medium" as a means to explore the ideas of flux, constance, desire, passion, love, modernity, etc.; each element is a part of the film's (say the film's choronotope's) construction.

... Just some thoughts to maybe make you think about the films some more. I think there's a really good essay to be written about these two films in conversation with one another. Even without the Thoret, or the Bordwell, but simply by attending to the films. Like: how can you relate the sex scenes in _MiVi_ to the conversations in red (in bed) in _Lola_?

Don't glut your maw with too much food! (Kinda obsessed with that phrase, clearly. Can you blame me? It's a really cool thing.) Later, alligators.

22 November, 2007 13:53  
Blogger Michael K. said...

Yes! I love this: (whom I believe to be) smart people talking about movies. I'm in the middle of Thanksgiving, so I'll go more on this later, but for now:

This is my struggle, man: I do think that dichotomy between academic and layman is false, like you wrote, Ryland, but it points to something else: At what point do you become smarter than the film? I love making films interesting via analysis, but certain films don't measure up to the words written about them. How do feel 'bout that?

22 November, 2007 17:45  
Blogger Michael K. said...

Ok, a bit more time now:

Responding to Ryland:

1) Is it really about games? Outside of the soccer ball and the roulette wheel, where else in the film are games invoked? The reset compulsion is a good catch, but that doesn't really jive with soccer, the initial conceit. Now, if we were on golf and mulligans...

But that last thing you said, that's really complicated I think, and I don't really get it. More?

2) That's awesome: like I wrote, film operating as film. So what if it's the film's imperative, or the viewer's?

3) I actually don't know if flux is the right word for R,L,R's time dynamic. I just think that's it isn't nearly as complicated (or interesting) as Miami Vice. Which brings me back to my previous post: I'll all about giving to films, being generous with a reading, but at what point do you have to demand something in return? I feel like, in my relationship with Run, Lola, Run, I'm doing all the work, I'm giving everything, and it gives very little - the aforementioned adrenaline rush and adroit superficiality (not a bad thing here) - in return. There's a line, right?, where you decide how much of yourself you're going to allocate to a film. And film's - more or less - earn that allocation. I don't think Run, Lola, Run earns the allocation that Felipe is (or is going to; I'm projecting here) demanding from us. That said, it is a good - and harmless - partner with which to spar.

22 November, 2007 18:13  
Blogger Ryland Walker Knight said...

Here's what I've come to think: if you choose to write something about a film, or about anything, you have chosen to deem it worthy of a comprehensive investment. It's part of why I've slowed my roll on the blog. Sometimes you have to write about things you know are not "worth your time," though, as is often the case in school, which can complicate the task of writing. But I figure you should approach any writing project with a mind to make it fun, to feel comfortable to write whatever you want. I've simply chosen to try to limit my writing to things I want to praise. This does not mean complete adoration; no, some films, or albums, or paintings, do not work (and this bears attention, too), but when approaching such an object I think the admirable writing is one which refuses categorical value judgments. The evaluation element in criticism is not simply whether an object is worthy of time and thought but evaluating what of the object itself is worthy (in relation to itself). This is why I'm averse to lists. Criticism is not about what's better than what. It's about how things work; and if they do not work, it's not about how it should have worked, nor how it could have worked, nor how the object of criticism's failure/s to work diminish its worth of the object; the writing itself makes the object worthy. (When a film fails its ambitions it can make for an intriguing essay, too, as if offers the critic the opportunity to take up certain possibilities in thought for him/herself. Such as: what's at stake in choosing the soccer ball to open _Lola_? if the film fails that trope, what might that say about the trope itself and not the film? what if the trope is simply games, and not soccer?) Also, criticism is an invitation to share the critic's experience of the film. The best works of criticism give the reader (1) a picture of the film (2) as it relates to the critic (3) and how the critic finds associations from what is given to him/her. As I find (the great) films to be works of philosophy, I find a passage of Wittgenstein so apt I get giddy thinking I get to share it with you (that is, reiterate it): 126. Philosophy simply puts everything before us, and neither explains nor deduces anything.--Since everything lies open to view there is nothing to explain. For what is hidden, for example, is of no interest to us. One might also give the name "philosophy" to what is possible before all new discoveries and inventions. What else is a film but a phenomenon where everything lies open to view before us? We do not add to the film in criticism. We add up our experience of the film. Our experience of the film triggers associations, which we can explore in relation to the film, but the burden of criticism, as an elucidation and not as an explanation, is not to build a film up (trumpet its many virtues) nor to tear a film down (harp its many deficiencies) -- it is to simply offer the best (say the most interesting and comprehensive) picture of the object at criticism for the reader. I do not think I live up to this definition yet. Or, it's real hard to table certain urges.

So: if you choose to write about, think about, talk about, _Lola_, then the burden of your work is to explode the film. Altho I would suspect he does, Thoret may not even like _MiVi_: it's not about that: it's about how he sees the object and attends to its functionality as an object of intentionality. Which brings me to the other big complication inherent to criticism: how to deal with the object in its relation to other objects (by its author/s and by other author/s it invokes, or inherits from). As Felipe said best, or better (more concise?) than me: "For me, this is an essential element of criticism; the expression of the singular value of a text always locates that text's singularity in relation to other texts. Criticism as monadic reading." Phew! This is a lot to struggle with, clearly, and makes blogging that much more difficult, or appear incomplete in many instances, as many blogs simply offer opinions of their authors, not actual criticism. It's enough to give me hives. So I try not to stress it. I try to make each writing experience fun, without ignoring how serious the practice really is.

23 November, 2007 23:09  
Blogger Michael K. said...

That's thorough, and I'm not going to try and debate it, but you write about "criticism" as if it were a solid place to start from? I do think the type of criticism you're talking about is the most noble, the most interesting, the best - if I were to make a judgmental list (heh.) it'd be my number 1! - but, if that motherfucker Derrida has taught me anything, it's that nothing is given. That's a good point: I did make the choice - as you imply - to write about Lola, but I refuse to believe that my options are so limited once I've made that choice. (Contra: it wasn't really a choice, actually; I gotta' get through November before choice is one of my options (ha!) again.)


1) It's moot, right?, because all of this fantastic discourse has come from the film, from our shared (or not) experiences. I do believe that Run, Lola, Run deserves a full analysis, with a sharp dissection of that soccer ball and the 90 minutes claim, but I didn't feel up to it. Thanks for giving me something else.

2) If you're up to it, I'd love to continue this convo - with you too, Cuyler, if you're down - over coffee or lunch or something. While I do enjoy the process of writing, I find that my mind moves faster than my fingers. (Maybe a good thing.) Anyway, cheers.

"The writing itself makes the object worthy." Really? How does that jive with Ratatouille? (Know that I'm being slightly sarcastic and entirely playful here - I just can't deal with emoticons.)

23 November, 2007 23:42  
Blogger cuyler ballenger said...

buc buck but how i would love to spend time hovering over a coffee with you two.
michael- at least your hands cant keep up, my fuckin head is at the mercy of my extremities (ha ah oops!)
ry- he uses words like monadic in e-mael exchanges!! -- ya digg?

24 November, 2007 09:04  

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